Its been a good old week really. The Red Bull Defiance came and went on Friday and Saturday and has kind of left me speechless. It was such an incredible experience to race at home over such a mind-blowingly spectacular course, alongside Braden and with the support of our friends and local community. The organisation of this event was 10/10 and I can instantly rate this as one of the greatest events I have ever been lucky enough to compete in/complete. A big congrats to everyone involved behind the scenes and out on course as both competitors and volunteers. Here is a summary of my experience.
There have been some cool finish lines in my life, but it was the RBD start line that impressed me more than any I have seen before. A trip on a barge across a chilly looking Lake Wanaka to Minaret Station got everyone into an excited mood early. Cruising across the lake, checking out the surrounding mountains, listening to good music blasting from the Red Bull Hummer and catching up with multisport friends was a great way to get the ball rolling. Then we were racing.
The first stage was one of my favourites and covered plenty of land I had not seen before. Together Braden and I worked to create a gap on the chasers and managed to find a bit of breathing room by transition, although its never enough to fully relax. We transitioned quickly to running shoes and managed to get away across the West Wanaka bridge before we heard or saw any other teams come into transition.
We spent most of this run slightly buttoned off as we had to save some juice for the remainder of the race, but when you are running in hill country with Braden Currie, it will never be easy! We really enjoyed the abseil above Diamond Lake and finished the run with some flat and open paddocks to stretch the legs out before returning to West Wanaka transition to kayak.
Into the kayaks and out of the Matukituki river mouth it was nice to be resting the legs for a bit. It was plain sailing as we paddled out around the peninsula but as we rounded the tip and started heading towards Glendhu Bay we found ourselves pushing straight into the teeth of the southerly. Its fair to say Braden and I were both a bit chilly by the time we hit the shores of G Bay so it was nice to be out onto our legs warming up again as we started the 14km run along the Millenium track towards the Day 1 finish line back in Wanaka.
It was a nice feeling to finish the first day with a handy buffer. Its not often I am able to look forward to the next day of racing having just finished 6 hours of hard going, but I have to say I was enjoying this race so much I couldnt wait to get stuck in again the next day.
Day two dawned clear and chilly. We were sent off on a couple km of running from Oakridge resort to the lakefront and awaiting kayaks. Braden and I were quickly into our vessel and managed to find company in Peak Adventure (from Australia) athletes Jarad Kohlar and Alex Hunt as well as evergreen athletes Bob McLachlan and Keith Murray who were in the 46+ category but easily able to mix it with the open teams. The paddle went pretty smoothly and our three kayaks were inseparable throughout as we hit the shores part way down the Clutha river almost in unison.
Braden nailed the clay bird shooting on his first attempt and we were out of there on mtb’s alone at the front. We seemed to get a jump on Peak Adventure and Breen Contacting (Bob and Keith) through the transition. It was nice to be out front and settle into our own rhythm as we headed off into Criffel Station and onto the big climb into the Criffel Ranges.
The views on the mountain bike stage on day two were unbeatable. It was a clear day, the sun had brought some warmth by now, the wind was light and views were unlimited. We could see the universe. It was a special part of the race and really celebrated to me what it means to be racing around Wanaka. We were out in the hills but Wanaka was “just there” below us. What an amazing place to call home.
After the brake burning descent down the Larches farm and into transition in the Cardrona Valley it was the final stage (and the most brutal) that stood between us and the finish of the race – a 24km run over Wanaka’s “skyline” between Mt Alpha and Roys Peak.
The climb up Spotts Creek is relentless, but luckily we had a good gap on 2nd so we chose to ease it back a gear and keep the pace sensible. We were in damage control. This also allowed us to look around, soak up the views and enjoy each others company while we started to feel the build of excitement as the finish line started to feel closer. Along the tops we could see the finish line about 1200m below, which added to the excitement and tangibility of finishing.
After a super fun and brutal downhill run from the summit of Roys Peak to the lake we hit the last few km of flat running and with the blink of any eye we were crossing the finish line. It was awesome to finish, not just because we had won, but because the event had been everything we had hoped and more. Braden had put together a course that he felt would be epic, but he would never really know until he had finished it. We had now finished it and the grin on our faces probably spoke more about our love for the event and the course we had just discovered, than our success in winning it. Second and third in the mens went to Peak Adventure and Torpedo 7 – two world class teams. The mixed category was the highest level of mixed gender racing you are likely to see anywhere. Marcel and Simone smashed it. The Usshers were 2nd and Jacky and Mimi from France were 3rd. We were saddened to catch up with our Team NZ Adventure team mates Jess and Glen and learn that they had been forced to pull out after Jess smashed her knee badly on day 1 and bravely got through part of day 2. Glen managed to finish alone, but it was very disappointing for them not to be able to compete as well as they and we knew they could have.
Big thanks to the whole Red Bull Defiance team. They nailed it first up. I would suggest people plan ahead if they hope to be involved next year, the start line is likely to fill fast.
I am now in Perth. This Sunday I will race in the Augusta Adventure Fest, with a start list of over 3800 competitors it is next level. Check out the latest here: http://www.rapidascent.com.au/Augustaadventurefest/NewsInDetail.aspx?e=6&id=1697
Then off to China the following week with Team NZ Adventure for the Wuhan Mountain Challenge. Its all go…
I’ll keep you posted.